By Rachel Gardner / email@example.com
AFTER being off limits for nearly four years Bristol’s Cabot Tower opens to the public again today.
Following an Evening Post campaign to help save it, £420,000 has been spent on a project to repair and restore the city’s landmark 105ft (32m) tall tower.
The first visitors were due to be allowed in from 1pm today following an opening ceremony attended by Bristol’s Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Geoff and Bernice Gollop.
It will be the first time visitors have been allowed to climb the stairwell to the top of the Grade II listed structure on Brandon Hill and enjoy panoramic views of the city since it was closed on safety grounds in November 2007.
A specialist investigation was carried out into cracks which had been seen in masonry around the 114-year-old structure’s viewing platforms.
The investigators found not only were there severe cracks in the outer sandstone wall in the upper section of the tower but much of the embedded ironwork was badly corroded, causing the structure to become unstable.
Vital work to make it safe has now been completed. The building was encased in scaffolding on January 8, after which the repair work got under way. The work involved filling and repairing the cracks, adding a new layer of asphalt to cover the floors of the viewing balconies to protect them from the elements, repairing and replacing the tower’s windows and repairing broken steel and stonework.
The very top of the tower – the angelic Lady of Commerce statue – also received a makeover.
A new copper conductor runs down her back and through the centre of the tower to protect it during lightning strikes.
Work was also done to clear graffiti that had been sprayed around the base of the tower and on the signs around it.
Bristol City Council and English Heritage worked together to oversee the tower’s restoration.
It cost £420,000, including £200,000 from English Heritage, £150,000 from the council and the rest from grant funding.
Simon Cook, Bristol City Council’s executive member for capital projects, said: “I am really pleased to see Cabot Tower open again.
“Cabot Tower has a very special place in the history of the city and it was vitally important that any restoration works undertaken were correct.
“Our investment in this historic monument underpins our commitment to caring for Bristol’s landmarks.
“Thanks must go to our partners who have worked with us to
ensure Cabot Tower has been preserved for future generations to enjoy.”
Friends of Brandon Hill treasurer Fraser Bridgefordcorr said the group was looking forward to the reopening and was looking to raise money to improve other areas near the tower.
“Hopefully the reopened Cabot Tower will be a boost for tourism in the city – people are really keen to climb up it,” he said.
“As a group we are now looking to raise money to improve the ornamental gardens and water feature so that the area can become even more attractive.”
Anyone who would like to help the group or donate money is asked to email Mr Bridgeford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The tower was built from 1897 to 1898 to mark the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s voyage to Newfoundland.
The Evening Post launched the Save Our Tower campaign last year after English Heritage, the Government’s historic buildings and monuments body, put off a decision on funding £200,000 of the repair bill, placing the work in doubt. The quango decided to help foot the bill soon afterwards.
More than 8,600 people joined a Facebook group calling for the tower to be saved, which was “liked” by more than 13,000 people.